Parks to property developers: Council plan faces opposition

By Contributor

By Felix Desmarais, Local Democracy Reporter

A decision on Rotorua's controversial reserves revocation proposal will echo through generations, elected members have heard.

On Monday, Rotorua Lakes Council's strategy, policy and finance committee met for the fourth and final day of hearings on the proposal, which would revoke the reserve status of 10 reserve sites to enable the council to sell them to developers and Kāinga Ora.

In the meeting, submitter Paddi Hodgkiss said she opposed the proposal and was "extremely disappointed and disgusted" about what she viewed as "the secretive manner in which this proposal came to be".

She said the council had talked about "misinformation" but "no information … should be the issue".

"Nothing was said until it was leaked."

Hodgkiss said she found it "despicable" the council had already drafted a local bill to enable the proposal.

She said Rotorua needed housing but only "for its own".

"History will judge you. Choose what's best for the Rotorua district and vote against the proposal, or vote for it and be remembered and condemned for endorsing Rotorua as the go-to social and temporary housing capital of New Zealand."

Submitter Neil Barnes said housing on reserves would be "future slums".

"Our parks are not for sale."

Submitter Dave Kennedy said in his opinion there was "a lot of information missing" and the public had been kept "in the dark".

A house relocator, Kennedy said when he shifted a building on to a site he went through "a large amount of paperwork" with the council, including assessing how appropriate a building was for its new site.

"Has the same scrutiny been given to this process?

"How well have you looked at what Kāinga Ora housing looks like? In Rotorua we've got a 50-year-old model of what state housing looks like in Rotorua - it's called Fordblock.

"Gangs, crime, domestic violence, police cars arriving daily, this is state housing in Rotorua, this is what it looks like and you're proposing to inject that into every avenue of the Rotorua community."

He said taxpayers and residents would pay for the decision with the loss of property value, loss of security and loss of harmony.

Restore Rotorua spokesperson Trevor Newbrook did not live near one of the identified reserve sites but said he had empathy for those who did and who had "paid a premium price" to live near them.

He also did not believe Kāinga Ora had capacity to build homes on the reserves in two years alongside the rest of its work programme in the city.

"I think this process today should be slowed down. The consultation is very rushed."

Newbrook began comparing the Reserves Local Bill with the paused Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) bill, calling the latter "dodgy".

Councillor Mercia Yates called a point of order citing "relevance".

Newbrook said he found it "extremely rude" he was interrupted in his submission, saying he was a guest of the council.

"A person should be allowed to speak and say what they think. If she doesn't find it relevant, ma'am, that's fine. The other members might find it very relevant."

In the meeting, chief executive Geoff Williams said staff were "going through" the submissions and "identifying themes".

He said elected members could expect a summary of the 639 submissions at the  August 11 strategy, policy and finance committee meeting, with staff responses on the submissions' themes and an updated set of recommendations.

The council has previously said no decisions had been made.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air